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10 September 2019
By Matt Hrkac

Yes, climate change is increasing the frequency and severity of bushfires

Once again the Greens, and the experts for the matter, are correctly pointing out that the frequency of extreme weather events are linked to the climate crisis; and once again, conservative commentators are jumping over themselves outrage to lash out at the Greens insensitive.

However, the Greens are absolutely spot on to be linking the increased severity of bushfires and other weather events with anthropogenic climate change; and they should continue to shout this fact from the rooftops regardless of how 'insensitive' it may sound.

While it its true that bushfires occur relatively frequently in Australia within the context of human lifetimes (occurring often enough that plants in the areas most prone to bushfire activity have adapted to survive fires, while others still have evolved to require fire to germinate) - they were never as frequent or as extreme as they have been in recent years. Severe bushfire events were once a rarity.

Looking back through history, severe bushfire events occurred in Australia once every two to three decades. These severe bushfire events were, however, limited to Tasmania, Victoria and New South Wales and were only limited to the hottest months of the summer. Only since the 1990’s have there been extreme bushfire events occurring earlier, and occurring every single year, in Australia.

We are barely into September, and already areas in Queensland and northern New South Wales that don’t usually burn due to normally ample rain, are burning. These bushfires are being driven by prolonged, and once again unprecedented, dry conditions. This comes off the back of the unprecedented bushfire conditions it experienced in November last year - where the outlook in parts of the state were classified as catastrophic for the first time.

This latest event is so extraordinarily rare that Queensland’s former fire commissioner, Lee Johnson, said that it’s “like nothing we’ve ever seen before”.

Meanwhile, around the world, the Amazon Rainforest is still continuing to burn (the name should be a hint that this area burning isn't normal) while forested areas in the Arctic also faced unprecedented and extreme fire conditions back in July this year.

While certain whining windbags may insist on continuing to stick their fingers in their ears and pretend that this is nothing out of the ordinary; the truth of the matter is that the climate crisis is driving extreme weather events, causing these events to become more frequent and severe, which in turn is leading to more extreme, frequent and severe bushfire events.

There is absolutely no doubt that these events are being driven by anthropogenic climate change. Unless extensive and serious action on the climate crisis is taken by governments - extreme weather events will continue to become more frequent and more severe and if no action is taken, there will be no going back.

Image credit: CSIRO.

About the author:

Matt Hrkac is a writer and photographer based in Geelong. He has particular interests in politics, elections, social movements and the trade union movement.

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